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Study Group to host forum tonight at Fuller Lodge

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm

From 6-8 p.m. today at Fuller Lodge, the Los Alamos Study Group will host a public discussion about the future of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s three big labs: Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).

Everyone is welcome. There is no charge but donations will be gratefully accepted.

The discussion is timed to coincide with the new, congressionally-mandated Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories (CRENEL), which is in the first phase of its review.

CRENEL will evaluate whether the 17 Department of Energy (DOE) labs, including the three NNSA labs, properly address DOE’s priorities and have clear, non-duplicative missions and unique capabilities “for current and future energy and national security challenges.”

CRENEL will evaluate the size of the labs, whether consolidation or realignment are appropriate, whether universities or other technology centers would be better for some of their work, as well as how to improve lab-directed research and development (LDRD).

The Los Alamos Study Group has been engaged with these and related issues for 25 years. The Study Group began with public discussions on this topic at Fuller Lodge in October, 1989. In addition to its own work, the Study Group has consulted on laboratory missions and management through the years for organizations in Livermore and Santa Fe. The Study Group regularly advises congressional committees, executive branch officials, and others in Washington on laboratory issues.

In addition to the general public, the Study Group is inviting officials from the Los Alamos Site Office and LANL, as well members of the New Mexico congressional delegation and the Governor’s office, to attend and take part in the moderated discussion. There will be plenty of time for comments and discussion from the audience.

The questions before the CRENEL and Congress include these, among others:

• Should there be two nuclear weapons physics labs — and if so, at what scale and with what missions?

• To what degree should LANL and LLNL undertake non-nuclear-weapons missions — and if so, what missions, where, and who will pay for them?

• Should SNL California be combined with a residual LLNL?

• Should LANL construct new plutonium chemistry and research facilities to replace those at LLNL?

• Should NNSA labs undertake “national competitiveness” or “industrial innovation” missions? If so, where and how?

• Should the NNSA lab contracts be re-structured, e.g. separated further, and if so how?

• Which facilities at LANL and LLNL should be closed, if any? Which programs should be terminated, if any?

Study Group director Greg Mello said: “DOE has 17 labs. Within these, NNSA has three. Are these the right numbers? Is there unnecessary duplication? NNSA’s two nuclear weapons physics lab are sized more or less as they were during the Cold War and cost DOE more than $3 billion annually.

“Mission-critical buildings elsewhere in the weapons complex are decrepit. Should budgets be re-balanced?

“The New Mexico delegation is attached to the notion that the New Mexico labs can lead the state to prosperity. This strategy has had almost 70 years to bear fruit. Is it realistic to pin our hopes on ‘tech transfer,” especially in a time of tight budgets and new national priorities?

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